As the follow up to the 2018 hit Amazon series Breathe, there was always going to be a lot of expectation around Breathe: Into The Shadows.
This increased exponentially, though, when it was announced that the series would star Abhishek Bachchan and Nithya Menen, two of the biggest names in Indian cinema.
Both make their digital debuts in the mystery crime thriller, too, which is further proof that the line between the big and small screen has never been thinner.
"When I started 20 years ago, one would never have thought that a medium like this would have opened up this kind of content," Bachchan tells The National, while Nenen admits that even she "couldn't believe the size of the production" on Breathe: Into The Shadows.
Such scale was necessary, too, as Bachchan and Menen play Avinash and Abha Sabharwal, a married couple that have to deal with a series of unusual and deeply dangerous ransom demands in order to get their kidnapped 6-year-old daughter back.
They're joined in this pursuit by Breathe's Kabir Sawant, once again played by Amit Sadh, who leads the investigation into her abduction, while also contending with the hostile environment of the Delhi Crime Branch.
Bachchan spent several months undergoing “severe” preparation for his leading role, as he looked to map out Avinash’s complexities and nuances over the course of an entire season. Something that he found quite odd, as he’s only used to doing that over just one movie.
“We had so much more material to work with. Up until now I had only done feature films. They’re only two to three hours. This time I had 12 hours to fill. There were a lot of layers that we wanted to etch out. So there were a lot of discussions. A lot of debate. A lot of workshops that we all did together, all in order to refine the points of each character.”
Menen took a much different approach to Bachchan, though. While she obviously made sure that Abha wasn’t just a grieving mother, teasing a surprising hidden depth that’s incrementally revealed over each new episode, Menen preferred to work in the moment so that her performance could feel more authentic.
This meant that Menen would zone out just before each shot in order to “really process what was about to happen in the scene.” Thankfully, the cast and crew gave her the space to fully prepare, with Menen saying that every single member of the production team was “quality conscious” and had “evolved sensibilities” when it came to shooting.
Clearly this technique worked a treat, too. Menen is so overjoyed with her performance in Breathe: Into The Shadows that she has already called it the best of her career, which is all the more impressive when you consider that this marked her first role in a year.
For Bachchan, though, it is the potential global reach of Breathe: Into The Shadows that most excites him. The increasing success of streaming services means that the series is being released on Amazon in over 200 nations, as well as several different languages, all on the same day.
“Because of the internet, we get to show our work on a platform that really doesn’t have any borders. Anybody can consume it,” he says.
At the same time, Bachchan loves that the likes of Amazon only have to concentrate on the quality of their content, rather than adjusting it in order to lure an “audience to come to the cinema”.
“Their concentration is just on making very cool, cutting edge content. You just have to think about getting the right person to do the right job. That’s the big difference.”
Menen echoes these sentiments, even going as far as to admit that she never felt entirely comfortable starring in mainstream movies.
“This new digital medium makes me feel so hopeful. [It] caters to everyone’s personal preferences. It doesn’t matter if you like horror, thrillers, dramas, comedies, they make niche shows … I am a niche actor.”
“For someone like me, this is a nice and hopeful space. This gives me a lot more diverse characters to play. Which films don’t … I’ve been waiting for this all my life. I am feel very hopeful for myself for my future. I feel like there’s a lot more stuff to come.
Bachchan feels like he is just getting started, too. “I don’t feel like I’m done or depleted or that I have no more stories left to tell. I have the same amount of zeal and excitement as I had 20 years ago. I am looking forward to carrying on and doing a lot more work.”
All 12 episodes of Breathe: Into The Shadows are now available on Amazon